Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Theme: “Learn to Pray” (1Timothy 2:1, 8)

S-1382-18SAP/C 9/22/2013 Hymns: (O) #454 vv1-6; (S) #457; L.S. #458; 459; (C) # 454 vv 7-8

Texts: Amos 8:4-7; 1Timothy 2:1-15; Luke 16:1-15

Theme: “Learn to Pray” (1Timothy 2:1, 8)

Question: “How do you make your prayers count?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the Gospel lesson: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling” (1Timothy 2:1-8).


Beloved in Christ, the Psalmist David wrote these blessed words: “O Lord, I call upon You; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to You! Let my prayer be counted as incense before You, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!” (Psalm 141:1-2). These words of the Psalmist may well have been ringing in the ears of St. Paul as he instructed his young seminarian Timothy in the art of prayer in the words that serve as our sermon text for today. By that same Holy Spirit, we too, today, will get a lesson on prayer.

Perhaps you have heard the joke “When all else fails try prayer!” While that may get a chuckle, it really is a sad and sinful commentary. Many, even among us followers of Jesus, either are ignorant of or just plain dismissive of the power of prayer. Our society teaches us to be self- reliant and self-supporting saying, “You can do it! If there is a will there is a way!” We buy into the devil-authored lie that we are captains of our own destiny! That’s fine when things are going well. But what happens when we can’t stop the cancer from growing? What do we do when you get the pink slip? What happens when your son is in deep legal trouble or your teenage daughter gets pregnant? Where do you go and to whom do you turn for help? The bottle, drugs, anger, or fishing? We make a mess out of our lives and then turn to prayer to let God clean it up!

Let’s be honest! This is exactly what happens when the situations in life get out of our control. When you can’t see where to go from where we are and nothing has worked, we think, “Well, after we have done all that other stuff, let’s try prayer.” But in doing this we fail to see the value of prayer and then like the divine fire alarm box, “in case of emergency, pray.” We act as if when we fall to our knees and rub our hands together God is going to come out of the bottle like a Jeannie and give us our desires. But oh, how mistaken we are! When we do this we cheapen this tremendous gift we have in the privilege of prayer. We underestimate its power and we don’t take the Lord to whom we pray seriously either!

But aside from all of the joking, prayer has power! It is a conversation with the King of the Universe! We bring our prayers and petitions to the Lord with the promise that He will hear and answer every one of them! James, the brother of Jesus said this: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working(James 5:16). PAUSE.

Indeed, the prayer of the saints ascends to the throne of Grace and God’s ears are attentive to them. Yet, we don’t pray often. We don’t go to the Lord with our requests. Some people consider it a waste of time. But not Paul! This man of God knows the value, benefit and the power of prayer and for this reason in the text before states: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling”

The life of God’s child is a life of prayer. The one who follows Jesus will follow Him on their knees because that is what Jesus did. Our lives are called in Holy Baptism to reflect that mentality because our hearts have been opened in faith. In faith, we plead with God to hear us and answer our every prayer.

Having said all of that let me say one more thing: All of the prayers we send up to God should mean nothing. Every one of them wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans, if the Holy Son of God had not be willing to bear His cross on Skull Hill and lay down His life for the sins of the world. Because of that suffering and death you and I can come to God’s throne to pray. We have this privilege because Christ did what we couldn’t do. He was willing to be cut off from the Heavenly Father so as to open our line of communication with Him! Through His death and resurrection we can know for certain and come boldly and trustingly to God in Jesus’ name and God will give us what we need.

Study the life of Jesus, and you will see Him at every interval of His life and ministry on His bones. He prayed all night before He chose the disciples. He prayed before He broke the bread and fish and gave them to the people. He prayed before the Passover Meal. He prayed in Gethsemane before He went up to skull Hill. He prayed from the cross. In what is called the High Priestly Prayer in John 17, Jesus teaches us by example when He prays for Himself, His disciples and even us! In this we can say, “The heartbeat of Christ was a life of prayer.”

Since we are the redeemed children of the Heavenly Father, we are called to emulate Jesus. This is a call to be faithful prayer warriors. We want to be men and women on our knees for our brothers and sisters in Christ, our often pagan and sinful leaders, those who don’t know Jesus, our neighbors and ourselves.

If, when you hear this and reflect on your spiritual life and find that you are not living the life of prayer, you are in the right place! It is here in this place that we return to the font, drown the non-praying or selfish praying old Adam and live the new and redeemed life of thanksgiving and prayer. This Spirit led new life we learn from Jesus and set aside times to get down on our knees and ask God to forgive us our sins, open our eyes to His precious Word and live under His grace.

This new life is what will shift your stuck in neutral spiritual life into high gear. The Spirit will lead you into that deeper connection with the Lord. When we hear words like this we can take them seriously knowing that God wants to hear and answer our prayers.

Today, the Savior leads you in a way that will make a difference in your life and others. Pray in the morning, at noon and at night. Pray when things are going well and when things are going bad. Pray at all times and for all people because Christ has made it possible to address the heavenly Father as OUR dear father! He is waiting for us to ask Him for all of our needs!

Why pray? Because prayer is good for us and others! Prayer changes lives. I share with you an event that happened that changed someone’s life—it’s a true story.

In his book “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes,” Ken Bailey tells a profound story about the blessings and value of prayer. Listen to Dr. Bailey speak: AFTER THE FALL OF THE SOVIENT UNION, I was privileged to lecture in Riga for the Latvian Lutheran Church. Most of the participants in the seminar were between the ages of 25-35. This meant that all of their education had been in the communist state system, which was determined to indoctrinate them in atheism. I asked one of the young women about how she came to faith.

“Was there a church in your village?” I asked.

“No, the communists closed all of them,” she replied.

“Did some saintly grandmother instruct you in the ways of God?”

“No. All the members of my family were atheists.”

“Did you have secret home Bible studies, or was there an underground church in your area?” “No, none of that” came the answer.

“So, what happened?” She told me the following story:

At funerals we were allowed to recite the Lord’s Prayer. As a young child I heard those strange words and had no idea who we were talking to, what the words meant, where they came from or why we were reciting them. When freedom came at last, I had the opportunity to search for their meaning. When you are in total darkness, the tiniest point of light is very bright. For me the Lord’s Prayer was that point of light. By the time I found its meaning I was a Christian. (p. 91).

Through a funeral in an atheist land the power of prayer—the Lord’s Prayer was on display. This young woman attended church and heard the simple words of Jesus in the prayer He taught us. And through that prayer she came to faith and followed the Eternal Light of salvation.

Today, you and I are those points of light. We pray not because we have to, because we want to converse with our Savior and Lord. We pray because we believe and know that Jesus hears and answers prayers. We pray because it doesn’t matter what you say, or how you say it, as long as it is directed to Jesus who answers every prayer.

It has been said that prayer is a school for amateurs because being led by the Holy Spirit is all that matters. That’s the only expertise you need. Pick a time and place for prayer. Make a list. If you don’t have a particular list, St. Paul gives one in the text. Then just pray! Do it over and over again, day after day. You don’t need new words. Just use the ones that the Holy Spirit gives you. Trust that familiarity does not breed contempt in your prayer life. Familiarity just makes it all the easier to reach out to the One who answers every prayer—Your Lord and Savior—Jesus Christ.

What a blessing to exercise daily on our knees and be in prayer. Prayer is special time spent with the God who blesses us for the sake of His Son, who prayed “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He has forgiven us. He has given us all things. Now, child of God, JUST PRAY! Amen.

Now the peace…


Theme: “The Blessing of Unity (Psalm 133:1)

S-1381-16SAP/C 9/13/2013 Hymns: (O) #; (S) #783; (C) #

Texts: Psalm 133

Theme: “The Blessing of Unity (Psalm 133:1)

This sermon will be preached at the International Center (IC) Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in St. Louis on Friday September 13, for the Council Of Presidents and Presidium. I will be dressed in my Arabic outfit.

1. Have two plates: one will have onions, radishes, horseradish, garlic and bitter herbs. And the second will have Cheese cake, Chocolate delicacy, Ted Drew’s, pecan pie.

2. I will read it in the Hebrew and emphasize the difference between Naeem = pleasant, vetov = good, cf. Marra = bitterness. In the sense that bitterness makes our noses run and eyes teary. But the sweetness puts a smile on our face and causes our eyes to glow.

Beloved in Christ, what joy and privilege to be among you today. I am honored to be among ROYALTY! You are sons and daughters of the King of the Universe and the Creator of the world; yes you are princess and princesses and heirs to the highest throne in the land. PAUSE.

Did you know that God has a good sense of humor? He really does! The more I study the Scriptures the more it causes me to laugh and know that God puts joy in our hearts. I will explain and demonstrate this humor. Who am I? What am I? I’m a Palestinian by nationality. I’m an Arab by race and Christian by grace. And yet, God chooses me, a Palestinian to serve in a Church with such deep German roots. To be sure God has a good sense of humor. In a Church with such deep German roots He chooses a Palestinian to be one of the Vice-Presidents. Go figure.

The Psalmist, David, proclaims in Psalm 133:1 “Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Unity in terms of concord is essential in day to day operations. With all Christians we have “unity” rooted in faith in Christ but not concord. Paul in Ephesians 4 exhorts the Christians at Ephesus to express their unity in Christ with a life of concord, making allowances for one another, but growing in Christ’s love. Where the fullness of Christ’s gospel dwells in us, the more we dwell in unity, concord, one accord....unity, that is, its expression in concord, unity takes humility and maturity....it means striving by the mercy of God to relate everything we do to the person and work of Jesus and His gospel and doing this in love. Paul in Ephesians four “begs, pleads, and urges” the Christians by the mercy of Christ to live out the implications of their baptism, daily drowning the Old Adam and daily allowing the passion of Christ to refresh others like the Mountain Dew (not soda pop) of Mt. Herman.

Brothers in Christ, you who are baptized in His name, know this truth, unity is important among us. Unity is what binds us together to accomplish the work of the Church, on the local, state, national and international level. By being united, we are able to accomplish much in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a world that desperately needs to hear of His suffering, death and glorious resurrection and be His followers.

Indeed, it is the great pleasure of walking together—hand in hand and doing the ministry together that helps us spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and bring Him among us. This is living the Great Commission to the ends of the earth. This is why this Synod exists; this is why we have Districts, circuits and churches around the states and the world. The prophet Amos asks a most compelling question. “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3). If we walk together, then much will be done. If on the other hand, we don’t walk together, we are walking opposite each other. And the work of the church will not be carried out. When that happens, death and demise is just around the corner. I share with you two stories that highlight unity and disunity.

Most of you have heard of Custer’s last stand. George Armstrong Custer, on June 25, 1876, divided 12 companies of the 7th U.S. Cavalry into three battalions. Captain Frederick Benteen would command one group, Major Marcus Reno would command another, and Custer would take the third. You know history well enough to know not one survived. They were all clobbered because they were not united but divided. PAUSE.

However, having served the beloved South Dakota District all of my ministry and all of these years in a very small community, I share another story that brings joy into my heart and demonstrates what happens when we are united, and the blessings it brings.

In the 750 persons community that I live in, an incident happened that shows what unity does to a person, family and community. A farmer had a motorcycle accident that caused both of his legs to be amputated at the knees. This farmer was in the hospital for a long time and couldn’t do any work for over a year +. When the church found out about it, they devised a plan to help. The word went out and all of the farmers brought their combines, tractors, and trucks and began to harvest. It was a beautiful sight to see the combines stretching across the fields one right next to each other. All of the trucks were lined up waiting to be to be loaded. They hauled the crops to the grain bins, dried them and stored them. And the ladies fed everybody. This event brought everyone closer and got the job done. And oh, the laughter, camaraderie and the joy was contagious…even the exhaustion at the end of the day knowing someone’s life had been changed. That is unity and its blessings. PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord and fellow foot washers. When you came into this room there were two different plates before you. Of the two which would you choose? {wait for responses}

I would venture to guess that almost all of you would choose the one with the sweetness in it. Because you would rather eat something sweet rather than something bitter. If this illustration demonstrates the truth, then that great shepherd boy, David said it correctly and teaches us the blessings of being united: .יָחַד-גַּם אַחִים שֶׁבֶת--נָּעִים-וּמַה ,טּוֹב-מַה הִנֵּה  “How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell in unity.” It is therefore time for us as leaders of this BELOVED Synod to extend the olive branch of service, love and caring for others, so that we don’t give the devil an opportunity to disrupt and disturb the work of the Gospel.

By the grace of God extend your hand of love to your brother. Don’t look at your brother as your enemy. He is not and she is not. She is redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. He has been saved through the cross the empty tomb just like you and me. Realize the only enemy we have is satan who wants to distract us from doing the work God called us to do.

I don’t care if you don’t do things like me, or you don’t agree with me on every point. For the love of God you are different. Just because I don’t do what you do, or you don’t do what I do, that doesn’t mean it is wrong. It just means we are different. God has gifted His church with different people with different gifts. By the power of the Holy Spirit use the gifts the Lord has given YOU for your brother’s benefit and for the glory of God.

However, what I do care about is the spread of the Gospel for lost sinners. I care about walking together in unity and that you would stand by me, take my hand and walk with me on the journey of life. When I am walking with you hand in hand, my journey is joyful and my burden is light. I am not so consumed with defending myself, or have to be afraid of what I will say or do. Instead, I would be joyfully supporting, uplifting and praying for you that the Lord of the Church would use you where you are planted. United together in life, in mission and in ministry, we can accomplish much for the sake of the Lord and His Church. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ we need to stand in the gap and support each other. We need to encourage each other on the journey of following Christ. By the Spirit’s power, you and I who have been baptized for the moment breathe strength into one another and bear each other up. That is unity. That is the blessing of being united as brothers and sisters in Christ. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, please remember that our unity is not based on our account of being German or Palestinian, Norwegian or Irish, not because we are Scriptural vs. confessional, not because we are doctrinal vs. evangelical, not because we are in a church office or the mission field, not because we are pastors or lay leaders, not because we are presidents of Districts, Synod or vice-president, or because we serve the church as foot washers. No, our unity is because we have been baptized in the name of Christ, because we have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light, because of His precious and sweet Gospel, but above all, because of His crimson blood shed on Calvary’s cross. Our unity is based on the cross and the empty tomb of Jesus our Savior. Our unity is based on His love for us—sinners.

{Here, I will ask the vice-presidents to please stand up and receive from me a cross. Then they will go around the room and hand out the crosses to the SAINTS in the room}

Today, beloved brothers and foot washers, you are receiving a cross. That cross and the empty tomb is what unites us together in mission, in ministry and our life together. On the cross is a dove—for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the only reason we are united. Through its grace and teaching we learn of what it means to be united and live out our lives in the prayer of Jesus in John 17 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their Word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that you have sent Me” (21-22).

That is the unity that unites us together—salvation in Jesus our Savior. May God grant it for His sake now and always. Amen.

Now the peace…


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

“God is not finished with me yet!” (Phil. 1:6)

S-1380a-17SAP/C 9/08/2013 Hymns: (S) #700;

Texts: Phil. 1:1-6

Theme: “God is not finished with me yet!” (Phil. 1:6)

Devotion for SD District BOD Sioux Falls, this is the last one. SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from St. Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi: And I am sure of this, that He who began ha good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).


In the name of Jesus our only Savior and Lord, amen. All of you in this room have received either a letter or an e-mail from me. At the bottom of my note, I conclude by saying: “In Christ’s love and in His Service, Rev. Nabil S. Nour Pastor, Grandpa, and foot washer Phil. 1:6 For this reason, I have chosen this special verse as my final farewell and words of exhortation to you my dear brothers and faithful foot washers.

Paul, the author of the text, is writing this letter from his jail cell to his favorite congregation before the Lord takes him home. It is a prayer and thanksiving. Paul is thankful for every time they come to his mind. These people had over and over again proven themselves to be a blessing to Paul and to the spread of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus. Paul reminds them of his thankfulness to them. And it is very important to let people know when they have been a blessing to us. I am sure you know this, but it worth repeating. Roses do no good when the person is dead.

I, like Paul, wish to thank you, for all of the blessings you have been to me. Some of you I have been privileged and honored to serve right alongside for many years and others just few years. And yet regardless of how many years we have served the Lord together, I am thankful for the opportunity to further the Gospel of my Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.

In 1:6, Paul shares with them the good news that God is not done with them yet. In fact He is still working on them. What a blessing to know that the Savior is never done working on us, making and fashioning us to be His instruments of blessing and joy to many saints for many years.

There is an old children’s song that speaks to this truth: I share with you the chorus and a verse. First the chorus: “He’s still workin’ on me, To make me what I ought to be. It took Him just a week to make the moon and the stars, The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars. How loving and patient He must be, He’s still workin’ on me!” And verse 1: “There really ought to be a sign upon my heart, ‘Don’t judge me yet, there’s an unfinished part.’ But I’ll be perfect, just according to His plan, Fashioned by the Master’s loving hand.”

That is right; we are perfect in the Master’s hands. It is His hands that reached out to us when we were just a little baby and the pastor spoke the words over us, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” With those loving hands He fed us at His table, nurtured us by His grace as we heard the Word and continues to work on our lives even now. Those are the same hands that picked up a huge wooden beam, carried it up a steep hill, and there they stretched those hands of His apart, and nailed them to that beam. They drove nails into His feet as well and suspended Him between heaven and hell. On a cruel instrument of suffering and torture, He gave His life, so that He may make ours complete and perfect.

Indeed, none of us have arrived yet. God is still working on us—we are still work in progress. He continues by the power of the Holy Spirit to remove the dross out of our lives and keeps the pure gold. He is even now, at this place still working on us to make us complete for His final return. As we travel onward toward eternity, we are still mere clay in the hands of the Heavenly Potter who is involved in making our lives His master-piece. God is not done with us yet, but He is preparing us for a glorious future.

This is what Paul is saying, “He is confident” not in himself but in the One who called Him to be His missionary to the Gentile. This confidence that Paul speaks about is rooted in Jesus Christ and the hope He gives to every sinner. The word “Confidence” means “to persuade, to convince beyond all doubt.”  What Paul is saying in this verse is that he has been “persuaded beyond all doubt that he is eternally saved through the crucifixion, death and glorious resurrection of Jesus.

And that “confidence” is not only for Paul, but to us here and to every child of God. That is the message that Paul is conveying here. It is Christ who has begun this good work of saving us from the punishment of hell, and it is this risen Christ who will complete it when He returns.

Please notice what Paul is saying: “He who has begun this work in “YOU.” This salvation act has begun, is carried out and will be completed in YOU by Him alone. That is very comforting and truly profound. The grace of God that saved us is the assurance of His work in our lives—yours and mine. According to the Word of God that testifies about His sacrificial giving of His life, we know this is true now and always.

Thanks be to God for what He has accomplished and is still accomplishing in us even today. Indeed, He continues to work on us. But what we have with this verse is the great knowledge that we have been saved. It is not are you saved? It is not will you be saved? It is not you have to do this or that to earn His favor. No, you are saved by grace alone on account of Christ alone.

And this brings us comfort and freedom to live our lives in the service of the Master. After all, He has done it all. From before the foundation of the world He has chosen us, saved us, redeemed us and blesses us always. God never leaves a task unfinished. Look at creation. Look at our Redemption. His history is our future! He, who has begun this work, will complete it. There is nothing for us to do, except rejoice and be glad in it.

No wonder Paul, states, “I am confident that Jesus the One who has begun this in you, will bring it to completion.” It is Christ and Christ alone who begins and finishes the work of our salvation.

We are privileged and honored to serve Him with the life and gifts He bestowed upon us. I will no longer sit in my chair and be here to listen, give advice or work along with you. But He will be and I am confident that He will carry on the banner of love and the spread of the Gospel in spite of the fact I am not here. It is all about Him and not me.

Children of the heavenly Father, join me in thanking the Master Potter, He is still working on us!  And, He will continue to work until every single one of His children is at home in the RESURRECTION. Someday, God will finish His work in us.  I have never been satisfied with the me I know down here, but I will be satisfied with the me that I will be when I arrive there. After all, you can’t improve upon perfection.

Thank God that the Savior will never stop working in our lives. Take heart and rejoice and be glad—for He is still at work in you and will complete it when He returns. To Him alone be all the glory, now and forever. Amen and Amen.

Now the peace of God…


Sunday, September 1, 2013

“Be Careful in How You live!” (Proverbs 25:7b-10)

S-1379-15SAP/C 9/01/2013 Hymns: (O) #508; (S) #400; #; (C) #36

Texts: Proverbs 25:2-10; Hebrews 13:1-17; Luke 14:1-14

Theme: “Be Careful in How You live!” (Proverbs 25:7b-10)

Question: “Have you ever seen the Bible play out in the lives of other people and wish that you could be the same way too?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the O. T. lesson: “What your eyes have seen do not hastily bring into court, for what will you do in the end, when your neighbor puts you to shame? Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another's secret, lest he who hears you bring shame upon you, and your ill repute have no end. (Proverbs 25:7b-10)


Beloved in the Savior’s name, Jesus our ONLY Lord and God, one of the greatest blessings we have as Christians is a Bible that shows our Awesome, Amazing and Almighty God. This amazing God moved men by the Holy Spirit to write a Book that teaches us the truth that leads to eternal Life. In that Book of books, we read about what Jesus has done—coming to earth, living the perfect life in our place and eventually taking our sins and nailing them to the cross.

From the opening words of Genesis to the final words of Revelation, we see God’s love oozing out, telling us His plan of salvation. Every book, every prophet, and every message points us to the Lamb; whose perfect life was slain on the altar of the cross for our sins. And by this marvelous act of sacrifice, we receive blessings and grace in abundance from this gracious God.

Yet, many saints, even some of us here are ignorant of that Book and the golden gem of salvation that is for you and me. Oh yes, we know the name of Jesus, we know some things about Him, but we really don’t know Him as the heaven-sent Savior who would do anything to save you from the punishment of hell and the wrath of God.

It is for this reason, that the Holy Spirit gathers us here week in and week out, so that you may apprehend, taste, touch, smell, hear and see what the Lord has accomplished and continues to work in your life in the cross, empty tomb, font and chalice FOR YOU! Because He is the great God that He is, He calls us to live a different life than the world. He wants us to be careful in how we live for Him. PAUSE.

Solomon, the author of the text before us, exhorts us to hear and head the words and to live our lives in such a manner that we make a difference in the lives of others—all the while glorifying God.

Solomon put it this way: “What your eyes have seen do not hastily bring into court, for what will you do in the end, when your neighbor puts you to shame? Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another's secret, lest he who hears you bring shame upon you, and your ill repute have no end. In another word, don’t be hasty in condemning or judging another person. Instead let our lives declare that we have been purchased by the shed blood of Jesus.

Saints in Christ, did you know that our lives are a book that is being read daily? We are not a book on a library shelf collecting dust, but daily being looked at. The lens that people see us through tells them what kind of people we are or they think we are.

How unfortunate though, when we, as Christ’s disciples, don’t pay careful heed to how we live. At times we live like the rest of the world and our lives are not a gospel light. At times we let the devil control what we do instead of what Christ desires for us to do. Whether we like it or not, people come up with all sorts of judgment on our lives by what we do. PAUSE.

Perhaps, you were like me, appalled at the lewd behavior of Miley Cyrus during a recent award. Rather than using her God-given gifts as a good role model, she has now become an embarrassment to herself and her family. How sad, that this young lady, exchanged the God-given gifts and skills and traded them for vulgarity or lewdness. What is even worse, many people don’t see anything wrong with that type of behavior.

You and I may not parade like Miley Cyrus in such lewd behavior, but we have enough sins that separate us from our Holy God. And yet, we play games thinking that we can hide our sins from God. In the presence of God, who knows ALL, we are kidding ourselves if we think our sins aren’t equally embarrassing to Him and ourselves.

But in this house of worship, there is no reason to pretend or play games. Christ invites you to come just as you are, but is not content to leave you that way as you confess your sins and receive His absolution. Here in this place Christ’s perfect life covers our imperfect life. He takes that which is unholy and makes it holy.

In this house of worship see how Jesus lives and calls us to follow His pattern. You see Jesus always lived His life in such a way that He didn’t have to pretend. What people saw in the Rabbi from Nazareth, is what they got, a Man who humbled Himself to exalt others. Christ suffered, died, and rose from the grave, to forgive our sins and grant us the perfect life.

This is what the Savior desires of you—to live your life in such a way that you are truly a message to others: A message of hope and joy, a book written with your life that points others to the Lamb without spot or sin—Jesus the Christ. PAUSE.

Holy people of God, a story is told of a preacher who came to a new town. On his first visit to the grocery store, he purchased few items and paid the cashier for the groceries. The man behind the counter introduced himself as the owner of the store and welcomed him to the town. After visiting for few moments, the owner gave him the change.

The minister headed towards his car. He looked at the change in his hands and realized that the owner had given him an extra quarter. As he contemplated what he should do about it, he began to reason: It is no big deal, it is only a quarter, and it will not make any difference. Should I take it back or not? He kept vacillating back and forth, should I or shouldn’t I? Finally, he went back into the store and said to the owner. “Sir, you gave me an extra quarter by mistake. Here is your money.” With that the owner said to the minister, “Pastor, I didn’t make a mistake, I gave you the extra quarter because I wanted to know what kind of man you are!”

The pastor headed back to the car. As he sat in the car, with shame and sorrow in his heart, he lifted his face heaven-ward and said, “Lord, Jesus Christ, please forgive me, I almost sold You for a quarter!”

Faithful followers of Jesus, in the name of Him who called you to faith in the waters of Holy Baptism, remember who and whose you are! You are His blood-bought children! Be careful how you live! What others see in you may well be the only Bible they ever read! Amen.

Now the peace…